Maine Senate approves bill to create Pine Tree Power Company

Updated: Jun. 16, 2021 at 10:39 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Maine (WABI) - The Maine senate approved a bill Wednesday that would replace Central Maine Power and Versant.

It would ultimately allow Mainers to decide if they want to create the new nonprofit utility, the Pine Tree Power Company.

But in a memo to lawmakers from the Governor’s chief of the staff, the Governor expressed concerns about the plan and whether she would support it or veto it.

Supporters say with the house and senate’s approval, Maine ratepayers are one step closer to affordable, more reliable, cleaner, and Maine-operated power.

They believe that investor-owned utilities are no longer meeting the needs of the Maine people and they have not for some time.

Critics of the bill say seizing the state’s private utilities is a bad idea because it could lead to higher rates and halt progress being made on climate change.

We spoke with Willy Ritch from Maine Affordable Energy today.

He believes there is nothing about this proposal that would work for average Mainers. He acknowledged the Governor’s skepticism, too.

”I know the Governor expressed some surprise this morning that there was an amendment to this bill that basically prohibits the Secretary of State from writing sort of neutral and balanced ballot language. We could be stuck with what the supporters of this have written for a ballot question, which to use the governor’s words, seems more like a campaign slogan,” said Willy Ritch, Executive Director of Maine Affordable Energy.

“With respect to property taxes, what we know is that this bill puts in law the requirements to keep municipalities whole, to ensure that they still have revenue from all of the infrastructures they host. In fact, and the governor points this out in her memo - they will have more financial benefit from this bill than they do now because it’s not included in their state valuation,” said Seth Berry, (D) Bowdoinham.

This bill does not have the two thirds support in both chambers to override a likely veto from the Governor.

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